Kit MacMahon, growing up in the lakeside village of Loughshee, seems to lead a charmed life. She is the loved daughter of Martin MacMahon, the kindly local pharmacist, and Helen, his beautiful wife. She has a little brother, Emmett; a best friend, Clio, and a host of other friends.
But Kit worries about her mother. Helen MacMahon does not fit in with the people and the ways of Loughshee. She wanders alone by the lake night after night -- until the dark windy night when she disappears and only her overturned rowboat is found near Loughshee's shore.
Kit grows up in the small village without the mother she has loved and so staunchly defended, determined to carry out her mother's last wishes that she should make something of her life. Though she moves to the city, Kit is constantly drawn back to Loughshee and the people who live there -- Clio Kelly and their love/hate relationship; Clio's father Dr. Kelly, whose sister-in-law Maura has her eyes on Kit's father; Philip O'Brien, who has loved Kit since childhood; and roguish Stevie Sullivan, who runs the garage and rules the affections of every woman for miles around.